Katie Pellerin, general manager of the Days Gone By Bakery in the community of Guysborough, is one of many in the business community who appreciate and look forward to the Gran Fondo Guysborough coming to the Municipality of the District of Guysborough [MODG], at the end of the summer.
So much so, in fact, that Days Gone By has integrated itself into the event, providing catering for 500 cyclists who flock to the MODG to partake in the cycling event.
“The meal we do for the event has been a phenomenal opportunity for us,” Pellerin said. “We get to feed 600 people in minutes, and it’s just really amazing. We only have, say, 50-something seats in our restaurant, so it’s awesome to get out among the people and feed that many mouths at the same time.”
In addition to the opportunity for the bakery that arises with the need to feed that many people at once, Pellerin noted the event also brings in foot traffic to the business.
“At that time of the year, we always do specials and promotions just for the bikers,” said Pellerin.
The morning of, bikers are offered a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, and the night before, the bakery puts on an entertainment night.
“We try to be as hospitable as we can, because there are so many people who don’t typically come here,” Pellerin said.
“Summer is a busy season for us. After Labour Day, it drops off and this is usually the next weekend, so we catch our breath for a few days before we go full-bore into it again. It’s a bit of an extension of the summer for us,” Pellerin said.
Good for the whole community
Pellerin noted the Gran Fondo brings in more people who end up benefitting many of the local businesses in Guysborough and the MODG.
According to Angie Tavares, director of recreation with the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, the purpose of the Gran Fondo is to accomplish just that: to bring people to Guysborough to help support the community.
“We made it a municipal event to draw people to our area. It’s our way to showcase the area. and draw people to our local businesses,” Tavares said. “The municipality itself doesn’t make any money off this. It’s just a way to draw people to our area to help local businesses.”
The MODG announced that the Gran Fondo will be returning to the MODG Sept. 7.
Although September is still a way off, registration for the event is now open.
“It’s basically a big group bike ride,” Tavares said, adding that plenty of elevation and scenic oceanfront routes make for a beautiful and challenging course for cyclists from across Atlantic Canada, and sometimes from as far away as the U.S.
There are five routes, designed to appeal to riders of all fitness levels. Each has its own level of challenge, navigating the hilly, sometimes rugged terrain of the Guysborough area.
The Gran Fondo Guysborough entails five separate loops of varying degrees of challenge. They include the following routes:
Eastern Shore Journey
• 120 km loop
• 90 km
Queensport Lighthouse Ride
• 50 km
Tour of the Tide
• 35 km
Historic Rail Trail Loop
• 30 km
“The 120 and 90 routes are challenging, but they’re all pretty hilly. There’s a tough hill right at the beginning,” Tavares said.
Peaceful seaside idyll
When asked how many people usually attend, Tavares said the limit for cyclists is set for 500 because, “people like that it’s a small event.”
Information for the 2019 Gran Fondo Guysborough website promotes the event as one that is peaceful, in part due to the limit on the number of participants, and in part due to the fact that each course goes through scenic rural areas with minimal traffic.
“The reason we keep it that way is so that the people on the ride have a chance to get local hospitality,” Tavares explained. “We want for each participant to feel that their needs are being met.”
Although Gran Fondo attracts many to the MODG, Tavares stops short of any comparison to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. Both events are different from one another, she noted.
“We draw people out on Friday night and they participate on Saturday, and then in the afternoon, they go out and use the rest of the day in our community, helping to boost our local businesses,” Tavares said. “Whereas, with Stanfest, people drive onto the site and camp there, and get their needs met on the grounds.”
It all starts at the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex, where every cyclist gets organized into the course they choose, and sets off at the appropriate time.
“Everyone is timed. They each get a chip and the chip goes on the bike. We call up people who registered for each course, so they all start the course together,” Tavares said. “They all go out and come back to the event site for a barbecue lunch.”
Tavares noted the Gran Fondo is not a competition but is done in the spirit of adventure, and to bring visitors into the community.
“We do a hill climb, and some people compete. Times are placed at the end, but we don’t give awards or anything to top participants,” Tavares said. “It’s all just for fun.”
The Guysborough Gran Fondo is one of two such events in the province, the other taking place in the Municipality of Clare at Baie Sainte-Marie.
Tavares also credited a group of 100 volunteers for their hard work in making the Gran Fondo a reality in the MODG.
“We have people out everywhere, to make sure we have first aid people in place, people passing out snacks and manning hydration stops to fuel up the riders,” she said.